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Friday at Winter Jazzfest (Day 1)

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Jazzfest menu

One of the most anticipated yearly music events – it was my first time to attend. Although I’ve done quite a bit of gig hopping before (too much temptation in New York even on a regular night), this time I probably set a personal record for the amount of bands heard in one night: caught 12 of the 31 groups on Friday (which would still make only 38% of all the Winter Jazzfest treats on offer for the day :)).

It was truly an unforgettable experience (and quite a challenge, to process that much musical information and find a way through the crowds)!

Here are some of my impressions from the first day of the Bleecker street & surroundings gig hopping marathon:

1. Started off with the Curtis Hasselbring’s Mellow Edwards @ Le Poisson Rouge, around 6 PM

Curtis Hasselbring's New Mellow Edwards

Curtis Hasselbring, trombone & guitar / Chris Speed, tenor saxophone & clarinet / Mary Halvorson, guitar / Matt Moran, vibraphone / Trevor Dunn, bass / Satoshi Takieshi, drums & percussion / Ches Smith, drums & percussion

Heard a nice guitar solo (tastefully poetic, created a spacious and open feel as if watching clouds in the sky…) by Mary Halvorson, but didn’t stay for the whole thing, still. In the early hours, there were quite few people everywhere, so it seemed like an ideal time for gig hopping and trying to see it all…

2. Off to Kenny’s Castaways to hear Ben Allison w/ Strings

Ben Allison trio w/ Strings

Jenny Scheinman (violin), Steve Cardenas (guitar), Ben Allison (bass)

That was one of the shows I had been looking forward to hearing (I’ve heard all three of them before myself quite a few times, but not this lineup).

I actually didn’t find it that interesting (the combination of jazz and folk often makes me wish it was either one or the other since rhythmically they are such different worlds). Great musicians though.

3. The Bitter End: Joel Harrison String Choir playing the music of Paul Motian

Joel Harrison String Choir

Joel Harrison, Liberty Ellman, guitars / Christian Howes, Sam Bardfeld, violins / Mat Maneri, viola / Dave Eggar, cello

That actually was not a tribute band (active for 10 years already, starting way before Paul Motian died…). Having a string quartet seems to be this year’s big trend for many bands…  This one was nice, but I still thought I should move on…

4. Julian Lage Group @ Sullivan Hall

Julian Lage, guitar / Jorge Roeder, bass / Tupac Mantilla, percussion / Aristides Rivas, cello / Dan Blake, sax

Adam Schatz presenting Julian Lage Group

This was one of the shows that I was really looking forward to hearing. And yes, Julian Lage is an absolutely amazing guitar player and instrumentalist with a great sense of drama. And they seemed to be enjoying what they do (and the audience loved them back for it) and the energy in the show was great (reminding of Pat Metheny Group somewhat).

But the melodic lines Lage played seemed surprisingly random, considering the outstanding quality of his musicianship. That kind of devalued the thing for me

Zinc Bar around 8:15 PM

(altough I guess great lines aren’t the most important thing people expect to hear nowadays)… So I didn’t stay for long.

Then tried to get in to Zinc Bar – as did many others, so it looked rather hopeless…Ditched the idea for the time.

Pete Robbins / Simon Jermyn / Oscar Noriega / John Hollenbeck / Ches Smith

5. Went to Kenny’s Castaways instead for Pete Robbins, Simon Jermyn, Oscar Noriega, Ches Smith

Pete Robbins and Oscar Noriega, alto saxophone / Simon Jermyn, bass guitar / Ches Smith and John Hollenbeck, drums

This sounded great,actually, but unfortunately it was quite crowded again, so I just stayed for a couple tunes…

6. Quickly checked out le Poisson Rouge and Nels Cline Singers

Nels Cline, guitar / Yuka C. Honda, keyboard / Scott Amendola, drums & electronics / Trevor Dunn, bass

It was quite crowded and didn’t seem like my cup of tea, so I hopped on…

Lucy Woodward

7. Lucy Woodward @ the Bitter End

Chris Bullock, saxophone / Nate Townsley, drums / Michael League, bass / Henry Hey, keys / Bob Lanzetti, guitar / Andy Hunter, trombone / Mike Maher, trumpet / Lucy Woodward, lead vocal

I guess some of those people form Michael League’s band the Snarky Puppy (often performing at Rockwood Music Hall). It was pretty nice. And the Bitter End was the cosiest (if seated) of the Bleecker Street venues and allowed a bit less stressful listening (although they had a pretty intimidating two drink minimum per person per set), so stayed there until the next band. Especially as, at that point, the lines outside had become pretty scary and finding a seat in any of the venues wasn’t that easy anymore…

Chris Morrissey w/ Aaron Parks, Mark Guiliana, Ben Wendel, Nir Felder

8. Chris Morrissey @ the Bitter End

Chris Morrissey, bass / Mark Guiliana, drums / Aaron Parks, piano / Ben Wendel, saxophone / Nir Felder, guitar

Stayed @ the Bitter End for this, but unfortunately it turned out to be a little bit of a disappointment…Not even sure, why exactly: maybe the compositions weren’t intriguing for my ear or was it just an off night or what… Aaron Parks played some beautiful solos, but despite that, it wasn’t that interesting, somehow. So I left after 3 or 4 tunes.

9. Another attempt to get into Zinc Bar, this time successful. Heard 3 or 4 tunes by Sketchy Black Dog.

Misha Piatigorsky, piano / Chris Wabich, drums / Danton Boller, bass / Liv Wagner, violin / Hilary Castle, violin / Colin Benn, viola / Agnes Nagy, cello

Sketchy Black Dog

The hardest to get in to, Zinc Bar was grooving that night… Misha’s set was about half way when we got there: and the atmosphere was hot. Great playing by everybody in the band, the string quartet sounded meticulous (+ it looked great how the women, dressed in red, were positioned on stage, encircling Misha behind the piano. Very sexy). Chris Wabich on drums was grooving and Misha himself was extremely charming (in a little bit of a Russian sort of way). His soulful phrasing (a quality that has become more and more hard to find lately), great feel for the blues and energy were really enjoyable. The repertoire seemed to consist of pop tunes (heard some Jimi Hendrix, the Police and so on). This is something almost everybody tries to do nowadays, but this band actually made it work, in style.

10. Gilad Hekselman 4tet @ Zinc Bar

 Gilad Hekselman, guitar / Mark Turner, saxophone / Joe Martin, double bass / Marcus Gilmore, drums

Gilad Hekselman 4tet w/ Mark Turner, Joe Martin, Marcus Gilmore

That was the highlight of the whole festival for me: really great band! I think Gilad Hekselman is one of the (quite few, actually,  based on my personal observations and comparisons between now and what I heard 2 years ago) musicians that has evolved a lot during the past couple of years, both as a guitar player and bandleader. He’s also one of the guys who builds the modern and new stuff consciously, on a strong foundation, so it actually sounds convincing (as opposed to somebody that would try to do some of this just because it’s hip and ending up sounding like excerpts from a jazz geek’s exercise book). I got huge respect for this kind of players, looking forward to what’s next from Gilad if he keeps moving on like that… Also, it was refreshing to see them playing without sheet music (except for Mark Turner, but in his case it was pretty understandable, as the melodies were complicated. And his playing didn’t seem to suffer from it anyhow). Joe Martin and Marcus Gilmore were absolutely mind blowing!! These are the real cats.

I wish there was a way to distinguish musicians of this level from the more and more undefinable (almost random) bag of “jazz”. The tools and awareness these musicians have for the improvising art are completely of another level – and they would deserve the credit for it also. It is a tremendous thing, to play this well.

Adam Rudolph's Moving Pictures

11. Adam Rudolph’s Moving Pictures @ Zinc Bar

Adam Rudolph, handrumset, kongos, djembe, tarija, zabumba, thumb pianos, sintir, multiphonic vocal, percussion / Graham Haynes, cornet, flugelhorn, percussion / Kenny Wessel, electric and acoustic guitars, banjo, percussion / Ralph Jones, flute, bass clarinet, alto flute, sop and tenor saxophones, bamboo flutes / Jerome Harris, acoustic bass guitar, slide guitar, vocal, percussion / Matt Kilmer, frame drums, kanjira, bata, percussion / James Hurt, cajon, sogo, kidi, bells, bata, percussion

That was pretty nice, and a contrast from the previous band – more like a world music sort of thing.

12. JD Walter @ Zinc Bar

 JD Walter, vocals / Jim Ridl, piano / Donald Edwards, drums / Luques Curtis, bass

JD Walter, vocals / Jim Ridl, piano / Donald Edwards, drums / Luques Curtis, bass

The only show so far that was a bit behind schedule (started a bit before 2 AM). I liked it, especially the deeply satisfying groove of the bass player, Luques Curtis! But I felt pretty saturated with all the music (and the alcoholic beverages that were softly enforced throughout the night) and decided to call it a day after a few tunes (definitely wouldn’t mind hearing JD Walter’s band more thoroughly some other time, though). Had a ($1) slice of pizza from Gray’s Papaya and arrived home around 4 AM (after some exciting shuttle bus transfers on the Q line). Was a great day!

Music feast ahead: Winter Jazzfest 2012

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2012 NYC Winter Jazz Fest

The eighth New York Winter Jazzfest coming up, to deliver over 60 mouthwatering performances in a compact spread of 5 different venues in the West Village. This Friday and Saturday (January 6th and 7th) – all music lovers in the city are going (me too)!

The sheer amount of music will be quite overwhelming, I expect. Imagining that if one would go see a concert once a week every single week of the year, it would still add up to only 52, compared to the 60 on just the two nights… What a way to take a bite out of this thriving music scene here.

I’ve been going through the program for a while (and it’s even kind of educating to do some pre-listening on some of the artists): it looks like it’s quite difficult to construct the absolute best itinerary for the nights – practically all of it has the potential to sound pretty mind blowing.

But as I’ve actually heard quite a many of this year’s performers before at some point, this time time I’m particularly excited about:

Julian Lage Group – (haven’t heard him live yet, but he seems to be a great guitar player and musician) Friday, 7:45pm @ Sullivan Hall

The 5 venues: the Bitter End, Le Poisson Rouge, Kenny's Castaway's, Sullivan Hall, Zinc Bar

Ben Williams and the Sound Effect – Jaleel Shaw, Matt Stevens, Gerald Clayton, Etienne Charles, Justin Brown. Sounds like a promising bunch Saturday, 12:45 AM @ Sullivan Hall

Justin Brown Group –  curious to see his own group (seen him doing a great job as a sideman on several occasions) Saturday 10:15 pm @ Sullivan Hall

Taylor Eigsti – one of the best young pianists now? Must be a great concert (with Eric Harland and Harish Rhaghavan) Saturday 12:30 AM @ the Bitter End

Tyshawn Sorey Oblique : interesting music! Saturday 01:45 AM @ the Bitter End

Yeah, and then I’m going to try to squeeze in Lionel Loueke (with Mark Guiliana on drums!), Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog, Wallace Roney (a little bit different generation than most of the Jazzfest, but sounding hip…), Chris Morrissey (with Aaron Parks, Mark Guiliana, Ben Wendel, Nir Felder = such a promising lineup!), Steven Bernstein’s MTO plays Sly (everybody’s raving about them), Ben Allison trio, Joel Harrison String Orchestra…

But most of all, I expect some of the fun to lie in playing it by the ear…

Vic Juris Trio with Tim Hagans @ 55 Bar

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Vic Juris trio with Tim Hagans @ 55 Bar

It was great to hear some good jazz on January first: Vic Juris (guitar), Jay Anderson (bass), Adam Nussbaum (drums) and Tim Hagans (trumpet) @ 55 Bar (the early set). Very nice crowd and atmosphere 🙂

They played a beautiful version of Ornette Coleman’s Lonely Woman.

Written by Ines

January 2, 2012 at 7:15 pm

New Year’s Eve @ Fat Cat: Avi Rothbard Trio

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Avi Rothbard, Pete Zimmer, Jared Gold @ Fat Cat

While most venues seemed to advertise and sell their New Year’s Eve packages for a lot of money and required reservations and/or standing in lines, Fat Cat might actually seemed to be way more accessible than their regular Saturday night. And the same $3 admission as always. And no fuss. Very refreshing.

And actually great music as well: Avi Rothbard (guitar), Jared Gold (organ B3) and Pete Zimmer (drums). I thought they sounded great!

They played, among other things, the Jitterbug WaltzYou Go To My Head, I Don’t Stand A Ghost Of a Chance With You, Midnight Blue, Sunny, Road Song, Just Friends, Feel Like Makin’ Love and some originals.

As they took quite a few requests, I tried to make one for Wives and Lovers, but they said they had played it in the first set (which I missed) 🙂

I was happy to start my year with them!

Written by Ines

January 2, 2012 at 2:28 am

Mark Guiliana’s Beat Music @ Rockwood

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Mark Guiliana’s Beat Music @ Rockwood

It has been a while since I last heard Mark Guiliana’s Beat Music (formerly known as Mark Guiliana’s Thing). This time it was with Jason Lindner on keyboards, Stephen Wall on all kinds of innovative and traditional instruments and gadgets, and Chris Morrissey on bass. It was really packed in Rockwood (I hope everybody tipped well as there was no admission). I was really lucky to get a seat upstairs, high enough to notice the words of wisdom “Play less” written on Mark Guiliana’s snare drum 🙂 I guess actually this straightforward approach is the big charm of this music: in this uncluttered and seemingly simple groove (not so many fancy time signatures) there is so much inner movement and textures that the space in it is actually the thing that becomes irresistibly addictive…

Musically, I think the project has evolved quite a bit since I last saw them: it’s more thought out although by no means lacking improvisation and spontaneity, still. As a proof to that, vocalist Jeff Taylor (in whose band Mark Guiliana and Stephen Wall play as well) got on stage for a few tunes for even more musical energy.

Mark Guiliana’s Beat Music featuring Jeff Taylor

For my heart’s content, they even played the classic Heernt tune Locked in a Basement 😀

But, I would actually be really worried about my hearing if I’d frequent the place a bit more.

Now vs Now @ Rockwood Music Hall

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Now vs Now @ Rockwood

Went to hear Now vs Now at Rockwood, Stage 2 (they have 2 stages these days, pretty awesome): Jason Lindner on keyboards, Mark Guiliana on drums and Panagiotis Andreou on bass.

Some of the tunes I had heard before (also have their first record, which is great) and some were new (they actually said they might record a live album at Rockwood on their next gig in January).

The concert was quite packed. I thought it got better and better towards the end but somehow I found it more difficult to be swept away this time. Maybe because the sound is just brutally loud at (this otherwise incredibly happening) Rockwood Music Hall. Must have earplugs.

Nir Felder Quartet @ 55Bar

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Nir Felder Quartet @ the 55 Bar

It is pretty great to be back in town 🙂 Went to hear Nir Felder’s Quartet @ the 55 Bar: Nir Felder on guitar, Mark Guiliana on drums, James Genus on bass and Shai Maestro on keyboards.

As a listener I actually enjoyed most what Shai Maestro got out of the tunes: he had a lot of variety and playfulness in his phrasing, and a variety of musical tools to keep it moving. In the same time, I was a bit perplexed about about Nir’s approach. He sounds really original and takes the music into new territories (away from jazz I guess) but as a listener I feel I’m just not given enough cues to get involved and follow him. It’s difficult to hear any melodic or harmonic movement (mostly just a lot of chromaticism), or feeling of tension and release in the phrasing…I enjoyed the more spacious and beat oriented tunes a lot though (in the end of the first set): I think Nir really excels in the context of creating color and landscapes that give open space for Mark’s drumming. In that sense, Mark’s own Beat Music concept speaks even more clearly to me.

Nir definitely seems to have a following and many fans here as the place was quite packed.  They even have a tap these days (with Brooklyn lager and everything)! Haven’t been there for ages, so I ordered a bottled Yuengling at first and felt a bit out of date… 🙂

55Bar have really great things coming up in the next month, so I’ll try to go back soon.

Written by Ines

December 23, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Charlie Parker Festival @ Marcus Garvey Park, Harlem

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Charlie Parker festival @ Marcus Garvey park

Part of the New York  Summer Stage, the annual Charlie Parker festival celebrated Bird’s 90. birthday this year (Aug 29th). I went to hear the concerts on Saturday @ Marcus Garvey Park, Harlem. I really liked the all-star tribute band MC Raydar Ellis’s Revive Da Live band with Ben Williams on bass (sounded really great), Justin Brown on drums, Jaleel Shaw on alto, Marcus Strickland on tenor, Marc Cary on keyboard, Corey King on trombone, Ingmar Thomas on trumpet.

I also heard J.D Allen’s group &  Jason Moran’s Bandwagon, which was great because one of my very favorite drummers Nasheet Waits was playing. But I didn’t understand the band leading concept of using old Billie Holiday and Eddie Jefferson tracks and playing along with them. It didn’t sound like a live concert at that point, it felt like the band is having a break.

Drummers that seemed to ignore the Charlie Parker festival

And last but not least, they had McCoy Tyner on solo piano. He played some really nice (mostly original) tunes – Fly With the Wind (he actually played it twice), I Should Care,  Blues on the Corner, African Village. A lot of people are saying how he doesn’t have the facility on the piano that he used to, but I think he still sounds totally extraordinary. At 86. And he is actually one of the very few of the real giants who’s still playing, so it’so feels really special to hear him live.

It was such a lovely day at the Marcus Garvey park and the weather was just perfect. The only REALLY annoying thing was how the folks at the Drummer’s Circle (not far from the main stage!) were drumming the whole time through the event. How come there are people that wouldn’t have courtesy to such a lovely event and great musicians, not to mention that on the big stage there were drummers like Nasheet Waits, Rudy Royston, Justin Brown playing? The sound in general was a bit too silent for the whole lawn area, and for that reason the drumming near by was especially painful for the interested listener. But despite all that, a really nice day in Harlem, was worth going! 🙂

Blues Brothers @ Brooklyn Bridge park

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Movies with a view

Just amazing summertime event (on its 11th season) on Brooklyn Bridge waterfront, at pier 1. Every Thursday @ sunset they screen a movie (FREE), with an amazing view on Manhattan as the background… It looks just unreal 🙂 Most people come early and pack a picnic for this. I went to see Blues Brothers, 1980 classic with musical acts by Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, John Lee Hooker, Cab Calloway, Chaka Khan, James Brown… And the weather was just perfect.

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